May 6, 2007

Zille new DA leader

Helen Zille has been elected the new leader of South Africa's main opposition Democratic Alliance at a party congress in Midrand near Johannesburg. She saw off a challenge from the party's national chairman Joe Seremane and DA Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip. Zille is to take over the reigns from retiring Tony Leon. The former political journalist has been at the helm of Cape Town for the past year - the only major South African municipality not governed by the nationally ruling African National Congress.
The DA is South Africa's biggest opposition group but, with just 12 percent of the vote at the general election in 2004, it trails far behind the 70 percent support of President Thabo Mbeki's ANC. The ANC has 270 seats in the National Assembly compared to 50 for the Democratic Alliance, which was formed in 2000 from a merger of two white-led parties. Ahead of the next elections in 2009, Zille hopes to exploit divisions within the ANC and with Communist and labour allies. She also hopes to build on the model of alliances with smaller parties that have helped her to resist ANC challenges in Cape Town. Zille, born in Johannesburg to German parents, has won at the local government elections in Cape Town in 2006 by a wafer-thin majority. (Rts)

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